NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Saturday that Harbaugh likely will meet with 49ers officials either Dec. 29 or 30, and that Harbaugh will tell them what he wants: Explore the opportunity with Michigan or for them to work out a trade with another NFL team. There would be a handful of suitors for Harbaugh if he chooses to remain as an NFL coach.
Rapoport also reported via Twitter that "people close to Harbaugh say he's conflicted about what to choose -- NFL or Michigan."
"He is conflicted about Michigan," Rapoport said Saturday on NFL Network's NFL Total Access. "He is a little surprised, talking to people close to him, about how hard the Maize and Blue have pulled at him. But he also knows he wants to be an NFL coach. He does not want to leave the area and the Oakland Raiders do seem to be the top suitor for him."
Rapoport reported via Twitter that Harbaugh "hasn't had any face-to-face talks with Michigan officials," with all interaction coming through intermediaries.
Rapoport reported earlier this week that Michigan has offered Harbaugh, a former Wolverines quarterback under Bo Schembechler, a six-year, $48 million contract; that contract would make him the highest-paid college coach in the country. Michigan will be replacing Brady Hoke, who was fired earlier this month after four seasons as coach.
Harbaugh deflected a question about Michigan on Friday, saying, "As you know, I only talk about the job that I have."
Harbaugh's affinity for Michigan is well-known: His father, Jack, was a Michigan assistant for seven seasons and Jim was at Michigan from 1983-86. He was the starting quarterback during his final two seasons with the team. He spoke to NFL Media's Albert Breer about his ties to Ann Arbor and how that shaped him as a coach in advance of the Super Bowl following the 2012 season.
Harbaugh coached at FCS member San Diego from 2004-06, then moved on to Stanford from 2007-10 before being hired by the 49ers. While he was known as a good recruiter at Stanford and certainly would be able to use his NFL success as a huge selling point to prospects, the idea of having to recruit again might not appeal to Harbaugh. He has been dealing with players such as Frank Gore, Patrick Willis and Anquan Boldin, and the thought of basically begging 17- and 18-year-olds -- at its core, that's what recruiting is about -- to come play for him at Michigan conceivably could be seen as a negative.
As for who could replace Harbaugh in San Francisco, Rapoport said the top in-house candidate would be defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. He also said young offensive coordinators, such as Adam Gase (Denver Broncos) and Josh McDaniels (New England Patriots), could be considered; if the 49ers go that route, the new coach presumably would be tasked with getting quarterback Colin Kaepernick back on track.